Managing your own personal online education Hype Cycle
One of the few good outcomes to the global lockdowns has been an incredible selection of courses to take online.
But with great opportunities can also come some serious overwhelm. Signing up for a course is a fantastic way to improve your life. But, of course, signing up is just the first step.
If you’ve picked up a new course and you want to make the most of it — or you have an older course gathering virtual dust on your hard drive — here’s how to make it a purchase you’re glad you made.
Managing our own Hype Cycles
I’ve noticed that the way we move through courses looks remarkably like the Gartner Hype Cycle — a framework that charts how society reacts to tech trends and innovation.
Each of the steps below has a corresponding moment in Gartner’s Hype Cycle, so you can see where you are now and understand the best steps to take.
#1: Connect with what made you buy it
The “innovation trigger”
The Hype Cycle starts with an innovation trigger — a tech change or breakthrough that captures our attention.
Your equivalent in your course-buying journey was the moment when you found out this course could solve a problem you were interested in, and you made the decision to sign up.
Something in that sign-up process made you say, “I want to do this one.” There was something you wanted to get, do, feel, make, or have.
Before you forget, write that goal down and put it somewhere you’ll see it regularly.
Some of the big courses (and especially those Black Friday bundles) have more material than you’re likely to get through. So make sure you know what, specifically, you want to get out of your learning, and keep your focus there.
This has value, by the way, even with a short, focused course. Restating why you want to complete it will help you make the commitment to getting it done.
- Write down the key result you want to gain from the course.
- Keep that goal visible as you’re working on the material.
- If you have more than one goal, write them down in their order of importance to you.
#2: Take advantage of your early enthusiasm
The “peak of inflated expectations”
The next phase is the honeymoon, where you’re in love with this new program (and the promises it’s making inside your head). Your appetite for taking action is typically at its peak in this phase.
We begin courses filled to the brim with optimism that this one is going to fix all the things.
It will make you six inches taller, add 30 IQ points, lengthen your eyelashes, allow you to speak fluently in 7 languages, make you stinking rich, and ensure you live to be 200.
This phase is a great time to set up a sustainable framework to actually attain the goal that’s driving you.
Like any other long project, you’ll get the benefits from your course by working on it regularly, and getting the coursework embedded into your normal habits and routine.
So while you’re still feeling that honeymoon glow, take a few minutes to block out learning time on your calendar and clear the space to do the coursework. This is also a terrific time to do any course tasks that seem a little daunting or outside your comfort zone.
- Block off time in your calendar to work on the course, both to consume the material and to do any exercises. (Digital coworking is a great time for this.)
- If you track your habits, add one for “Education” and devote 10 minutes a day (or more, of course) to a learning task.
- Make a list of any tasks for the course that feel a little intimidating or uncomfortable, and get them onto your calendar.
#3: Manage the inevitable dip
The “trough of disillusionment”
Somewhere a few weeks into the course, we all realize that,
- OK, getting six inches taller probably wasn’t actually in the promised results, and
- receiving the course’s benefits is going to require a fair amount of work.
Not only that, it’s probably the kind of work that you don’t want to do. (If that weren’t the case, you would have worked through it on your own already.)
This is when people quit. They might request a refund, or they just mentally check out and quit doing the work.
This happens with face-to-face courses as well. But the supportive infrastructure of a teacher, the other students, and the potential fallout from a bad grade will tend to keep you coming back and completing the material.
With a virtual course, you won’t have those automatically built in. But you can reproduce those structures for yourself.
First, when you know the trough is coming (and it is pretty close to inevitable), you can make a plan for working through it.
When I start to lose enthusiasm for the course, I will (your plan goes here here).”
Your plan can include things like setting a timer for 20 minutes, taking your homework to a coffee shop (if that’s an option for you now), or giving yourself a little reward at the end of your session.
One of the smartest strategies you can adopt is to find some accountability friends and commit together to working toward your goals.
Then, schedule time when you’ll all meet (virtually is fine) in order to watch or listen to the course materials and do the homework.
(This is why, by the way, our virtual coworking sessions are so useful inside Creative Fierce. You’d be amazed at how much you get done when there’s someone who will miss you if you don’t show up.)
- Write out your own plan for times when you’re not feeling motivated.
- Look for accountability partners (inside your course or elsewhere) you can meet with to work on the course.
- Set mini goals for yourself on the progress you want to make each week. Keep these relatively small and easy to accomplish, so you can feel confident about meeting them.
#4: Put your learning to work as quickly as possible
The “slope of enlightenment”
As you’re learning useful skills, get in the habit of putting them into practice. Rather than waiting until you perfect your new abilities, implement them a little earlier than you find completely comfortable.
Even the best courses can only point you toward where the real learning comes: Practice.
You also want to take advantage of teacher interaction, if you have access to it, and ask questions based on what you’ve implemented. You’ll be able to learn much more from your teacher if your questions are based on experience.
- As soon as you complete a course lesson or homework, jot down how you’ll implement it in the real world. Small steps are fine!
- Talk with your accountability group about how you’ll implement what you’re learning … and share when you’ve done it.
- If your course includes teacher interaction, ask them questions based on your implementation of the material, even in the early stages.
#5: Reap the benefits … and go back for more
The “plateau of productivity”
Once you’ve mastered your initial goal with the course, give yourself a little time to bask in the glow. You set your mind to learning something, you powered through the uncomfortable parts, and you did it! Be sure to give yourself some serious high fives.
Most people who buy courses don’t complete them, or even do enough coursework to get a significant benefit. When you do, you’re putting yourself in an elite class. Give yourself credit for that.
Depending on the breadth of the course, this can be a good time to look through the materials and see if there’s another goal you can pursue. If you bought a copywriting course and are now writing good sales pages, is there additional material that might let you improve your email sequences?
Of, of course, you might decide you’re ready for a more advanced course to go deeper into your topic. The 21st century rewards lifelong learners, and there’s always something new we can add to our repertoire.
- Look for ways to more deeply implement what you’ve learned in the course.
- See if you can find a tangible way to measure the improved results, such as a change in your website analytics.
- Look over your initial goals and see if you might be able to squeeze even more out of this course.
But be careful of this …
One warning: You may find that the more you learn, the less confident you feel. That’s because as you become more expert in your topic, you become much more aware of how much there still is to learn.
(This is quite common in ethical people who actually care about the audience they serve and the value they contribute.)
It’s great to be humble and to stay in touch with how much you can still learn about your subject. But make sure to also give yourself credit for mastering skills and techniques that used to intimidate you. Humility is great, but imposter syndrome doesn’t help anyone.
Want some help with that?
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